hands crossed between prison bars

Inside Voices: Collaborative Writing in a Prison Environment

Alexandra J Cavallaro, Melissa K Forbes, Larry Barrett, Robert Garite, Chris Harrison, Reginald Jones, Igor Kazakovs, Otilio Rosas, Luis Saucedo, Tobias Thurman, Agustin Torres, Antonio Walker


This article explores how notions of collaboration in the writing classroom are challenged and altered when that classroom is located in a medium-security prison. Based on a for-credit multimodal writing course co-taught by the lead authors, this text (itself a collaboration between the instructors and ten of our incarcerated students) unpacks the processes and practices through which communication is regulated by the institutional authority of the prison (collectively termed the Carceral Communication Framework, or CCF) and places them in conversation with the innovations demanded by the prison’s technological constraints. Contending that collaboration in a prison setting tactically subverts the CCF and provides agency to people who are systematically disenfranchised, we focus on two different dimensions of that process: collaborations between students and teachers and collaborations between the students themselves.


multimodal composition; incarceration; collaboration; writing pedagogy; prison writing; prison education